April 28, 2022 2 min read

The History of the Royal Oxford

It is a well-loved staple in most wardrobes. The go-to uniform for any smart-casual event or office day, flattering on everyone and ultimately practical in any season or setting. But where did the Oxford shirt come from and how did it become an essential item? 

The early 19th Century saw textile production take an experimental turn. Competition amongst weaving mills was fierce as they constantly sought to innovate techniques and invent new fabrics to stay ahead of the industry. Scotland was leading the way in designing and creating new weaving techniques. They designed four different cloths with different weaves, which were subsequently named after the four prestigious academic institutions of the time; Yale, Harvard, Cambridge and Oxford. The naming convention was a marketing tactic to help the shirts gain recognition. It goes without saying the Oxford cloth stood the test of time.  

What made the Oxford weave special? 

The Oxford cloth is special for its type of weave. It is formed from two strands of yarn, one heavier weight and one lighter weight. They are woven across each other, with the heavier warp thread going over and under the lighter warp thread. The mix of the warps and the cross-weave technique helps the fabric achieve a durable overall finish, as well as a breathable weight. It also gives the cloth its distinct checkerboard appearance. 

How did it gain popularity?

The airy weight of the fabric meant it became popular amongst the elite polo-players at the prestigious Oxford and Cambridge universities, as it was the most functional fabric on the market due to its breathable weight. Initially intended for prestigious events, this was the go-to choice for the students when playing and spectating. It was made into a shirt and for practicality, buttons were later added to the collars to keep them down and resistant to flapping around during game-play. The shirt then gained widespread popularity when students continued to wear them outside of the sporting grounds and beyond graduation. 

The shirt spread across borders in the U.S where the Ivy-League students continued to wear it across campuses casually and as the spectator uniform to all the sporting games. It was a reliable fabric quality that could be comfortably worn in many climates, further promoting its dynamic wearability. It was in the U.S where it transformed into what we refer to today as ‘preppy style.’ Combined with shorts, loafers and a buttoned down and untucked fit, it further morphed itself into an iconic casual garment. 

The Royal Oxford Now

Referred to still as the Royal Oxford, it has gained a dynamic use-case as a garment that is perfectly suited for any casual or formal occasion, from an eccentric ensemble to a boardroom look. It is a testament to timeless style, with its functional design. At Alder & Green we have made sure to live up to the quality of the Oxford by creating our shirts in a range of classic colours, in 100% organic cotton fabric, to reflect the changing requirements of our planet. We look to honour the classics and elevate staple wardrobe pieces through conscious production practices, bridging the gap between formal menswear and sustainability. 

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